South Asia Research and Analysis Studies

US Trojan horse
Sultan M Hali

Under the garb of expanding the Embassyís premises, according to media reports, the US diplomatic mission in Islamabad has raised the hackles of city fathers by planning to increase the elevation of its complex. Those in charge of Pakistanís security have observed that if this happens, the US will be able to keep an eye on all important buildings in its vicinity in the federal capital. These include the presidency, the Prime Ministerís residence and secretariat, Parliament and even the headquarters of Pakistanís premier security agency, the ISI.

The concerned quarters have, reportedly, raised the matter with the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to ask the US mission to limit the elevation of the complex to four, rather than seven storeys. Although a vigilant watch is being maintained over Islamabad through satellite and other aerial platforms, a permanent view from the rooftop of the new complex would be more ominous and round the clock.

The mission had the blueprint of its proposed construction approved on January 16, 2012, by a committee comprising CDA officials, representatives of the Planning Emergency and Disaster Management, and members nominated by the Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners. The surprising aspect is that the committee, responsible to analyse the architectural and structural aspects of the project, appreciated the energy-efficient design with the facilities of rainwater harvesting and sewage treatment plant, but failed to see through the ploy of placing a virtual Trojan horse in the midst of the metropolis.

More so, the matter gains ominous proportions because the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) has recently undergone the exercise of reviewing the terms of engagement with Washington, following the Nato attack on two Pakistani checkposts on November 26 in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed. The PCNS has recommended that the US should review its footprints in Pakistan and there should be transparency on the number and presence of foreign intelligence operatives in Pakistan. If there is credence in Ahmed Rashidís latest book, Pakistan on the Brink, in which he says that President Barack Obama had approved Leon Panettaís plan to create a Pakistan-specific CIA hidden from the eyes of the ISI, then the situation is grave!

According to the Washington Post, the US mission in Islamabad already houses the largest CIA contingent in the world, and now it is being expanded without the Foreign Ministryís approval or input from the intelligence agencies. Needless to say that the Raymond and Osama episodes have already dealt a severe blow to USAís credibility in Pakistan and raised serious concerns.

Anyway, the plot thickens further since the US is withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, on the one hand, but furtively expanding its presence in Pakistan, on the other. Indeed, enhanced drone strikes and the massive footprint of US military presence in Islamabad, spell danger for Pakistanís sovereignty. According to an article, entitled US overtures and Pakistanís stand, a senior Pakistani official is mentioned quoting a reasonably reliable source who said: ďThere are about 15,000 marines in the capital.Ē If true, this is a very perilous development, since the massive figure of 15,000 is tantamount to division strength and would prove to be detrimental to Pakistanís sovereignty.

If that were not enough, TheNationís story of March 23 captioned US setting up for Pak sneak-in, reveals that the Americans have already acquired more than 400 houses in Islamabad, where their agents, contractors and marines have been living. In some of these houses, according to sources, even ammunition is being kept. Reportedly, they are trying to shift their Lahore Consulate, which is presently located very close to the Governorís House, to Johar Town. However, the Foreign Office and intelligence agencies have refused the request so far.

It is high time that the Foreign Office of Pakistan takes the bull by the horns and ensures that the building of the US diplomatic mission is limited to four storeys, and that the CIA personnel and marines should seek formal clearance by the Foreign Office and intelligence agencies before entering the country. Pakistanís sovereignty must be respected at all costs!